i i H i i i 4 i i i i i i i i i
815 N. Charle* Street
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BY RANDOM HOUSE, INC., NEW YORK
PRINTED IN UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
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By ALVA JOHNSTON
and a huge supporting cast
of Hollywood Stars
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Written and Directed by:
BENNETT A. CERF
ROBERT K. HAAS
DONALD S. KLOPFER
in Charge of Editorial Matters:
in Charge of Production:
HERBERT R. CAHN
(Typography, Binding & Jacket)
ANDOR BRAUN & VALENTI ANGELO
BY RANDOM HOUSE, INC., NEW YORK
American Book Bindery-Stratford Press, Inc.
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THE ELECTION OF WOODROW WILSON CHANGED
Samuel Goldwyn from a glove salesman to a movie
magnate. The Wilson Administration lowered the tariff
on skins. Sam thought that would take the profit out of
gloves. He looked around for some other line and picked
That was in 191 3. Sam was only thirty, but he had
been a glove salesman for fifteen years. He had sold
gloves to Yankee general-store proprietors. He had a
sales enthusiasm bordering on frenzy. Sam argues a man
into a coma or into a disorder resembling "bends." His
victim signs anything.
Sam talked a large part of Hollywood into existence.
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-<->- THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<->
The great Paramount studio is a monument to his nui-
sance value. The Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer plant is largely
the petrified conversation of Goldwyn. His voice breaks
men down like a rubber hose. He has tortured vast quan-
tities of talent and capital into Hollywood.
Sam is out of the two giant organizations which he
played a large part in forming. He is out because the
ruling principle of his life is— Goldwyn is boss. Sam is
the absolute monarch. Paramount made the mistake of
not accepting this principle, and it lost Goldwyn. Metro-
Goldwyn-Mayer made the identical error, and it lost
Sam then organized his third company, in which he is
as absolute as Ivan the Terrible. This is Samuel Goldwyn,
Inc., Ltd. He owns ioo per cent of it. He quit the Hays
organization because he would not let Will Hays or any-
one else encroach on his sovereignty. He withdrew from
the Central Casting Agency because he wanted to pick
his own actors, even for the smallest parts. He was the
first producer to establish his own wardrobe; he wanted
to control the last detail of his costuming. From the
beginning of his career, Sam was regarded as the greatest
salesman in the business. Later he was called the smartest
publicity man and general showman. In the last ten or
twelve years he has won increasing fame as an artist. He
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-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<->
has a long history of producing pictures of high quality,
like Stella Dallas, The Dark Angel, Arronjosmith, These
Three, and Dodsworth. Sam has had more fights than
any other man in Hollywood. Because he is a rebel and
a trail blazer in the use of the English language, he is the
central figure of a great comic legend.
But most of those who hate him or laugh at him will
say, "I admire Sam." The routine is to ridicule Goldwyn
for a while and to denounce him for a while, and then to
credit him with "an instinctive love of beauty" and "com-
plete" or "almost complete artistic integrity." The ablest
people in Hollywood, generally speaking, admire Gold-
wyn most. His closest friend was the late Irving Thal-
berg. It is almost a fad in Hollywood today to rave about
Goldwyn's taste. He commands respect because of a
seeming contempt for money when he is in a mood to
lavish it in the pursuit of what he regards as perfection.
He suffers and agonizes to get "the Goldwyn touch";
those who work for him suffer and agonize with him.
His greatest fame, however, is based on Goldwyn say-
ings and Goldwyn jokes. Sam's words built much of
Hollywood, but he mispronounces them and uses them
in the wrong places. Nouns, verbs and adjectives are
Goldwyn's tools; he is more celebrated for broken tools
than for what he accomplished with them. He is un-
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-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<->
rivaled today, as an unconscious humorist, or wit,
through no fault of his own. Sam does not wholly enjoy
his pre-eminence, although at times he has deliberately
promoted it. Henry Ford collected Ford jokes and
printed them as advertising matter; on that precedent
Goldwyn's publicity department formerly collected and
invented Goldwyn gags and circulated them. The trend
had already been so well established, however, that any
dazzling flash of ignorance or any startling disarrange-
ment of words would ultimately be attributed to Sam
without any help from his press representatives. Today
it takes an expert to pick the genuine Goldwyn lines
from the spurious. More people are counterfeiting on
Goldwyn than on Uncle Sam.
Some of the true Goldwyn lines are a credit to him.
He can often put things more forcefully in his own
medium of expression than they could possibly be said in
the king's English. An ordinary man, on deciding to quit
the Hays organization, might have turned to his fellow
producers and said, "Gentlemen, I prefer to stand aloof,"
or "Gentlemen, I have decided to go my own way."
Sam said, "Gentlemen, include me out." It would be im-
possible to make a more pointed remark than Goldwyn's,
"A verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's written on."
One day, after slicing five or six golf balls, he made a
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beautiful drive; he turned to the caddy and asked,
"What did I do right?" The true Goldwyn line is sel-
dom a boner or a howler. It is usually a plain statement
with a slight twist; as, for example, his exclamation at
the beach one lovely Sunday morning, "What a wonder-
ful day to spend Sunday!"
Sam commands legitimate attention by thinking
strange thoughts rather than uttering strange words.
The absolute-monarch psychology causes him to feel
that his problems are world problems. When he medi-
tates, he thinks that everyone should, by some telepathic
process, be listening in. He awakened an assistant at
midnight once and started a telephone conversation by
saying, "The woman must die in the end." "What
woman?" the man asked. Goldwyn had been thinking
out the plot of a picture; the employee was expected to
know by thought transference all that had gone before.
Sam was as annoyed as if the man had gone to sleep in a
conference. He expects employees to have a sixth sense
and to render supernatural service. Again and again,
Sam starts conversations without telling the other man
what the subject is.
One day he stopped every man he met on the Gold-
wyn lot, asking: "Do you think it is raining tonight?"
Several said, "No."
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One man said, "Of course not. There's not a cloud in
Sam withered him with a look. "I mean in New York,"
he said. "Our picture opens tonight in New York."
One of the leading directors in Hollywood called on
Goldwyn one day at Goldwyn's request. As the man
entered the office, Sam pounded his fist on his desk and
said: "I won't pay you a cent more."
"Why, you haven't paid me anything yet," said the
"I don't mean that," said Sam. "I mean I know what
you have been getting and I won't pay you a cent more."
The director still looked blank. With a sigh, Goldwyn
went back and laid the foundation for the conversation
by explaining that he wanted the director to make a pic-
ture for him; the interview then started all over again.
Much of the time Sam's mind is so concentrated on pic-
tures that he is practically in a trance. One day he stopped
over in Chicago, went to the Hotel Blackstone, reg-
istered, went directly to his room, seized the telephone
and said, "Get my office." He expected the operator,
without even knowing his name, to connect him with
his studio in Hollywood. The operator took Goldwyn
by surprise by asking the number. He didn't know it.
Sam has a prodigious memory, but he doesn't know
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<-> THE GREAT G O L D W Y N -<->
his telephone number. He doesn't know his home ad-
dress. He will not charge his mind with points of this
kind. Once when he was driving with Harpo Marx, Sam
wanted to stop and telephone home. "What's my num-
ber?" he asked. Harpo gave it to him. A moment later,
Sam asked again. Harpo repeated it. "Write it down for
me, Harpo," said Sam. He wouldn't ask his memory to
retain a detail of that kind from the car to a telephone.
He never forgets a point relating to his primary interest,
the pictures. Conversations of years ago on this subject
are stored away in his mind like phonograph records,
but he won't burden his memory with things that others
can remember for him. Sam is the king, and the other
people are his faithful vassals. No one is too big for the
office of king's remembrancer. Sam Harris, the famous
Broadway producer, got the appointment years ago.
Harris, Arthur Hopkins, Goldwyn and others had been
playing golf. In the dressing room, Harris put on a dis-
tinguished suit of underwear.
"Where did you get it?" asked Goldwyn. Harris told
him. "I'm going to get some," said Goldwyn. "Call me
up tomorrow morning and remind me of it."
Anyone who happens to be with Sam automatically
becomes the chancellor of the king's exchequer. Sam
never carries money. He is slender and an elegant
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dresser. Bills make a bulge in the coat pocket. Small
change makes a bulge in the vest pocket. Sam is too
proud of his figure and his tailor to allow his lines to be
distorted by currency in any form.
Most of Sam's word trouble is inattention. His mind
is usually 90 or 100 per cent occupied with future pic-
tures. He won't use his brain for non-essentials like other
men's names, and he has an undiscriminating ear for
sounds. Only one syllable out of three in an ordinary
man's name will register correctly in Sam's conscious-
ness; a world celebrity might score two out of three. In
the very act of telling Louis Bromfield how important
the name of Bromfield was, Sam called him Bloomfield.
When hiring Arthur Hornblow, Jr., Sam called him
Hornbloom. Hornblow wrote the name on a paper;
Sam waved it aside, saying, "Show me later." Ben Ca-
hane, a member of the Goldwyn organization, was al-
ways "Mr. Cocoon." When Charlie Chaplin returned
from Paris several years ago, Sam inquired after the
health of Anatole France by asking, "How are the Affairs
of Anatole?" Shirley Temple is Anne Shirley to Gold-
wyn; King Vidor is Henry King.
Sam pays fabulous salaries to Big Names, but he re-
serves the right to mispronounce them. He worships
writers. Many of the best of them have worked for him.
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-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN "<">
It has been said that if Shakespeare were alive today,
Goldwyn would have him. It is an interesting notion;
some of the bad plays, like Cymbeline, Troilus and Cres-
sida, and Fericles, might have been tightened up into
great dramas if the playwright had had a producer over
him to tell him, "It stinks, Wagspeare. It's lousy. It's
terrible. It's ghastly. You're ruining me, Wagstaff."
Sam's passionate concentration on his primary pur-
poses leaves only a few fibers of his brain for secondary
matters. That causes his scrambled phonetics; it also gives
him a genius for making unexpected comments. A story
conference on Barbary Coast was being held at Gold-
wyn's home one fine morning. A fierce wrangle had de-
veloped, with floor pacing and table pounding. William
Wellman, the director, happened to pass a window. He
stopped and looked out.
"That's the most beautiful sight I ever saw," he said.
The others quit fighting and came over to the window.
A mother quail and a flock of baby quail were trotting
across the lawn.
"Think of us wrangling here when we could be look-
ing at things like that," said one of the conferees.
"It's the prettiest thing I ever saw," said another. It
was now Sam's turn to say something.
"They don't belong here," said Sam. He didn't say it
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in bad humor. He didn't resent the quail's trespassing. It
was merely his turn to speak and he contributed a point
The first impression of Goldwyn that you get in
Hollywood is that he spends all his time hewing away at
the dictionaries and grammars. The second is that he is
always in a frenzy; he is said to be the only man who can
run amuck sitting down. Both impressions are exagger-
ated. Many persons who know Sam pretty well have
never heard him miscoin a phrase; others have never
found him anything but reasonable. He never forgets
that Sam is king, but he is able to remember that some-
thing is due to princes of the blood, which is his rating
of people of talent. He is not in a hurry; no producer
gives more time to writers and directors; he can be not
only patient but long-suffering. He has accepted kidding
by Eddie Cantor and other illustrious wags with the tol-
erance of a monarch toward his licensed jesters. He will
do anything for the cause, which is to turn out good pic-
tures. His great rages and furies are generally intended
as contributions to the cause.
He is second to none in his respect for money, but he
will throw it away like a madman to get the effect he
wants in a picture. When he didn't like his first version
of Nana, he scrapped it completely, throwing away with-
> 12. -«-
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out a murmur the $411,000 he had spent on it; his own
money, too, not stockholders'. He will not let down the
name of Goldwyn, if he can help it. His failures are not
the result of any lack of striving.
Goldwyn's usual method is to pay an enormous price
for the screen rights— $165,000 for Dead End; $160,000
for Dodsivorth—of a stage hit or popular novel, and then
to hire the best writers and directors to make it. His
ability as a producer is sometimes discounted, on the
theory that he buys success. This is not the whole story,
however. He has turned out distinguished pictures over
a long period. Hundreds have collaborated with him, but
Sam has been able to place his unmistakable mark on all
his work. The greatest tribute to him is that the phrase
"the Goldwyn touch" is part of the vocabulary of
Hollywood. "The Goldwyn touch" is not brilliance or
sensationalism. It is something that manifests itself grad-
ually in a picture; the characters are consistent; the work-
manship is honest; there are no tricks and short cuts; the
intelligence of the audience is never insulted. Goldwyn
ran away from his home in Poland at the age of eleven
and arrived here alone in the steerage at the age of thir-
teen. His education in English was a year at night school.
With this background, the most impressive fact about
him is his development of taste and artistic conscience;
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today it is a compliment to nearly any picture to say that
it looks like a Goldwyn production.
Goldwyn is sometimes called a Napoleon— a title of
no distinction in Hollywood. It is like calling a man
"Mister." Sam has, however, a belief in his star, or a be-
lief that the universe is rigged in his favor. He can't un-
derstand losing at games of chance or in business con-
troversies; it is a violation of the laws of nature as he
understands them, and it makes him the hardest kind of
a loser. He stated his philosophy when he had an argu-
ment with another company over the services of William
Anthony McGuire, who wrote The Great Ziegfeld. Sam
wanted McGuire badly. So did the other producer. Both
sides claimed to have him under contract. The only solu-
tion was arbitration.
"All right," said Sam. "Pm a fair man. Pll submit any-
thing to arbitration. But remember, no matter what is
decided, McGuire goes to work for me."
When Goldwyn loses at games, there are stormy
scenes. It is not the loss of money that hurts; it's the
sacrilege. Such things can't happen legitimately in the
Goldwyn universe; foul play is indicated. There some-
times is foul play. Goldwyn-baiting is a recognized pas-
time. Some of his dearest friends cheat him because they
like to hear him rave. Backgammon, as Sam plays it with
> 24 ^
*<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN <r>*
some members of his circle, is as honest as wrestling.
Chico Marx said, "Sam is the only man in the world who
can throw a seven with one die." Charles MacArthur
once slapped Sam's hand and said, "That's cheating."
"What's that between us?" said Sam.
Sam once kicked a lot of stones out of the way and
made a path smooth as a billiard table in front of his
golf ball, which was lying near the green. Then he
tapped it, almost making the hole. His opponent, Harpo
Marx, kicked a stone out of the way of his own bail.
"You can't do that!" shouted Sam.
"But you just did it," said Harpo.
"But didn't you hear my caddy say I shouldn't?" de-
Sam loses pretty regularly at bridge, so fights are fre-
quent. There was an uproar at the bridge table on Joseph
Schenck's yacht one day. Schenck walked to the other
end of the yacht, where the wives of the players were
sitting, and said, "They're having a fight."
"Sam and who?" inquired Mrs. Goldwyn.
Sam scolded his partner, Constance Bennett, once for
overbidding her hand.
"How did I know you had nothing?" she asked.
"Didn't you hear me keeping still?" asked Sam.
At another bridge party on the Schenck yacht, Sam
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went down eight hundred points on one play. He in-
sisted that it should be only seven hundred. In the argu-
ment that followed, Sam offered to bet Edwin Loeb, a
Hollywood lawyer, one hundred dollars that it should
be seven hundred points.
"I won't bet," said Loeb. "It would be betting on a
Sam scoffed and jeered, and finally forced the bet.
The book was consulted; Sam was wrong. He paid the
one hundred dollars under protest.
"You were betting on a sure thing," he said.
Later in the same game the same point came up. Sam
insisted the play set him back only seven hundred. He
badgered Loeb into another one-hundred-dollar bet;
lost; paid under protest; claimed he was the victim of a
Next to his royal and imperial cast of mind, Sam's
chief trait is his love of battle. Both traits were necessary
to enable him, with his unpromising start in life, to carve
his career. He is one of the pioneers of the modern mo-
tion picture, and he is still giving lessons in the art to the
new generation. If he were a less impressive figure, the
Goldwyn gag would be unknown. A smaller man can
utter misbegotten bons mots by the hundreds without
being noticed. It is useless today for anybody else to be
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■<->- THE GREAT GOLDWYN "<~>
witty unawares. Sam has cornered the world supply of
unconscious humor. Everything from Irish bulls to Jap-
anese-schoolboy comedy is credited to him.
Before Sam arrived in Hollywood, the official uncon-
scious humorists were two brothers who made short
comic pictures. The brothers became obscure; Sam be-
came famous. The old anecdotes deserted the brothers
and attached themselves to Goldwyn. "Our comedies are
not to be laughed at" is one of the lines that abandoned
the original author and joined the Goldwyn legend.
Another was a telegram sent by one of the brothers after
their studio had burned: "If there is nothing left to
watch, fire the watchman." When a director asked the
brothers to send him to the Rockies to shoot cliffs and
forests, the reply was, "A rock's a rock and a tree's a
tree; shoot it in Griffith Park." The brothers were
robbed of these and other gags; Goldwyn became the re-
luctant receiver of the stolen goods.
"I can answer you in two words, 'Im possible,' " is al-
most the cornerstone of the Goldwyn legend, but Sam
did not say it. It was printed late in 1925 in a humorous
magazine and credited to an anonymous Potash or Perl-
mutter. An executive in the Chaplin studio pointed it
out to Charlie Chaplin, saying, "It sounds like Sam Gold-
wyn." Chaplin said, "We'll pin it on Sam," and he re-
> 2? +
-f> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<->
peated it until it became a world-famous Goldwynism.
"I read part of it all the way through," had a similar
origin. A producer said that to a team of writers. They
laughed. The producer said, "Boys, I've always been
good to you. Don't tell it on me. I'm sensitive. Tell it on
Sam." It would have pinned itself on Sam in the course
of time, anyway. The sun-dial story, which is having a
vogue now, runs:
"What's that?" asks Sam.
"What's it for?" asks Sam.
"It tells time by the sun."
"My, my, what won't they do next?"
This was printed years ago as the saying of a gardener.
It gravitated slowly to California and finally attached it-
self to Goldwyn. Probably the most actively circulated
Goldwyn story today is that someone said, "What beau-
tiful hands your wife has," and that Sam replied, "Yes,
I'm going to have a bust made of them." So many per-
sons swear they overheard this that Sam must have said
it over the radio; but many authorities say it has not the
genuine Goldwyn stamp. There are reliable witnesses
who are sure they heard Sam say, "It rolls off my back
like a duck," when Sam's publicity man showed him a
bunch of newspaper reviews damning one of his pictures.
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-<-> THE GREAT G O L D W Y N -<->
Charles A lac Arthur, a Goldwyn expert, challenged its
A kind of Goldwyn scholarship has grown up; there
are specialists who can detect fake Goldwynisms as an
archaeologist can spot a phony Greek vase. The duck's-
back line was alleged to lack the Goldwyn rhythm. Later
it came to light that it had been invented at the Goldwyn
studio restaurant. Members of the staff had amused them-
selves at lunch every day for a week by trying to say
things as Sam might have said them. They produced
scores of damaged maxims, malformed proverbs and
mangled metaphors. The duck's-back line was consid-
ered the only one to have the master touch, but it was
not good enough to fool experts.
One of the standard Goldwyn lines was plagiarized
from George M. Cohan. "Never let that in this office
again," shouted Cohan; then, feeling a little ridiculous
and turning the joke against himself, he added, "unless
we need him." The conscious humor is omitted from the
line as transplanted to Goldwyn, who is supposed to
have said, "Never let that on this lot again unless we
need him." Sam did act on this principle in the case of
Ben Hecht. He issued a statement to the effect that he
would never employ him again and that no other studio
would. Hecht had not only offended Goldwyn but had
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■<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<->
deprived him of revenge. After the trouble, Hecht had
got to the newspapers first with a statement to the effect
that the Hollywood producers were high-minded art
lovers, while the writers were squalid racketeers, and so
on. Hecht had expounded Goldwyn's case so convinc-
ingly that the producer had nothing left to add.
Sam's reply was a boycott. But he soon decided that
he needed Hecht and his writing partner, MacArthur.
He not only swallowed his indignation but he signed a
contract which stipulated that he was not allowed to
speak to them. For three weeks Goldwyn observed this
clause. Then he violated it by telephoning to Mac-
Arthur on the pretext that Mrs. Goldwyn desired to
know where to address a letter to MacArthur's wife,
Helen Hayes. After some other disarming inquiries, Sam
asked how the writers were getting on with their script.
MacArthur broke down and said, "All right."
"That's great. That's wonderful," said Sam. He then
sent his regards to the "racketeer," as he called Hecht,
and the feud was over.
Goldwyn has had a long succession of able press agents
from Harry Reichenbach to his present publicity chief,
Jock Lawrence. Nearly all the Alumni of the Goldwyn
press department are distinguished people. Under Sam
they learned how to work publicity miracles. They
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boast of the terrific punishment they took under Gold-
wyn. They speak of Sam as they speak of operations.
Goldwyn is like the English schoolmaster, Busby, who
scourged his pupils into illustriousness. Sam gets more
space in the papers than any man in Hollywood, but he
regards himself as the victim of a conspiracy of silence.
No one has heard good modern malediction unless he has
heard Sam reproach a press agent for not performing
enough miracles. For weeks after a conference with Sam,
the publicity man is picking broken epigrams out of his
Goldwyn's attitude toward publicity is logical. Pic-
tures are everything to him. Pictures are man's only
legitimate interest; pictures are Goldwyn Pictures. When
people think of anything else, they're getting off the
subject; the mission of his press department is to keep
their attention from wandering. The Puritans had a
functionary who went around tapping the heads of peo-
ple they caught not listening to the sermon; Sam's pub-
licity men are expected to crack down on anyone they
catch not thinking of Goldwyn. When Sam finds a news-
paper full of wars, floods and crimes, he is furious with
his publicity department for letting digressions and irrele-
vances leak in. The Goldwyn press agent does not ex-
pect praise in proportion to the amount of Goldwyn
> 3 1 +
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stuff in the newspapers; he expects blame according to
the percentage of non-Goldwyn stuff that gets in.
There have been different opinions as to the publicity
value of Goldwyn gags. One school holds that any pub-
licity is publicity, and any fame is fame. Acting on this
principle, some of Sam's propagandists have raided vau-
deville, radio and old joke books to plagiarize hot ones
and hang them on their employer. The other school
holds that "the Goldwyn touch" means intelligence,
taste, class; and that it blurs the impression to represent
Sam personally as the king of unconscious low comedy.
After one of his trips to England, Goldwyn was inclined
to take the latter view. Sam is an important social num-
ber in England and on the Continent. On one trip he
found distinguished foreigners lionizing him to a degree
that worried him. On his return, he ordered a change of
policy in the publicity department. "Over there," he said,
"they kept watching my mouth all the time, expecting
something funny to pop out."
They were disappointed. Sam goes sometimes for days
without saying anything memorable. He usually has to
be pretty excited in order to coin anything that will live.
He does have good days, however. Here are a few
Goldwyn lines that are vouched for by good authorities:
-<-> THE GREAT G O L D W Y N ■<->
"The trouble with this business is the dearth of bad
"We can get all the Indians we need at the reservoir."
"Our new executive was born in an orpheum asylum."
"My horse was in the lead, coming down the home-
stretch, when the caddy had to fall off."
"Excuse me, I am going out for some tea and trum-
"I have been laid up with intentional flu."
"He treats me like the dirt under my feet."
"That's the way with these directors, they're always
biting the hand that lays the golden tgg. 11
"You're always taking the bull between the teeth."
"For this part I want a lady, a lady; somebody that's
"I would be sticking my head in a moose."
"I want to make a picture about the Russian Secret
Police-the G. O. P."
"I had a monumental idea this morning, but I didn't
He embarrassed a lady writer once by saying "co-
habit" when he meant "co-operate."
"Will you give me your word of honor that you will
work for me when you finish your present picture?"
> 33 +
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Sam asked a writer. The writer said he couldn't. "If you
can't give me your word of honor, will you give me your
promise?" demanded Sam.
"It's too caustic," said a director, when asked his opin-
ion of a script.
"To hell with the cost," replied Sam. "If it's a good
picture, we'll make it."
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• >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> a <<<<<<<<<<<<<<< <
THE FIRST LAW OF GOLDWYN'S BEING IS THAT
Goldwyn is boss. He quickly gets out of anything
that he can't boss. At the age of twelve, he got out of his
Sam was born in Warsaw in 1882 and went to work
as an office boy when he was eleven. A year later he ran
away to England. In order to be his own boss, he worked
at the age of twelve as a blacksmith's helper. For a while
he lived with relatives at Manchester. They tried to exer-
cise authority over him, and at thirteen he crossed the
Atlantic in the steerage. He preferred to operate in a
hemisphere where he didn't have any relatives.
Sam went to work as a glovemaker in a factory at
•> 35 +
■<-> THE GREAT G O L D W Y N <->-
Gloversville, New York. A year in night school was his
only education in this country, but he succeeded in mak-
ing himself a master of rhetoric. He uses words wrongly,
but with magic power. The map of Hollywood has been
transformed by Sam's gnarled eloquence.
Sam is a born aristocrat. By the time he was fifteen
he was moving in the higher circles of the town. When
he was seen on the street, he was either alone or in the
company of some Gloversville celebrity. His most inti-
mate friend was Abe Lehr, the heir-apparent of a glove
king. Their friendship lasted, off and on, for forty years.
When Sam became the Great Goldwyn of the films,
Lehr was invaluable because he had opinions of his own
and was not afraid to cross Sam. For example, when Yes,
Yes had been tentatively selected as the title of one of
Eddie Cantor's pictures, Lehr opposed it.
"What's the matter with that title?" demanded
"I don't like it," said Lehr.
"Give me one reason why Yes, Yes is not a good title,"
"It's too negative," said Abe.
"And they claim I say funny things," said Sam. Abe
had his way, however, and the title was changed.
The first business association between Sam and Abe
> 36 +
>>>>>>>> > # < <<<<<<< <
entertains for New York's
Mayor Walker during Jimmy's
visit to Hollywood several years
ago. Douglas Fairbanks is seated
in the foreground. The girl at the
left is Lupe Velez, and next to
her are Dolores Del Rio, Louella
Parsons, and Marion Davies.
Charlie Chaplin is next to Mr.
Goldwyn. Two down from
Jimmy Walker is Ernst Lubitsch.
>>>>>>>> >ft< <<<<<<< <
-*->• THE GREAT GOLDWYN ^~>
occurred when they were working at the same bench in
Abe's father's glove factory. Sam was industrious and
Abe was lazy. They formed an arrangement under which
Sam worked an hour more than the regular day and Abe
worked an hour less than the regular day. In return for
this, the proprietor's son, through his pull, caused the
foreman to furnish Sam with the best skins. You can cut
gloves out of good skins much faster than you can cut
gloves out of bad skins. Sam was paid on a piecework
basis. He made so much money that Lehr, Sr., investi-
gated. He discovered the plot and fired both Abe and
Sam. He relented later. "I'll take you back," he said,
"but you can't work in partnership any more."
Abe Lehr learned, at Gloversville, a lesson that was
invaluable to him in Hollywood— the lesson that it is a
fatal error to do what Sam says and a fatal error not to
do what he says. Sam took $120 from his pocket one
night, kept twenty dollars for himself and then handed
$100 to Abe, saying, "No matter what I say, don't give
me this back till tomorrow." Sam quickly lost the twenty
dollars at faro and then demanded another twenty dol-
lars. Abe refused. Then Abe learned for the first time
something of the true genius of his friend— his cyclonic
emotional energy, his power to play on human weak-
nesses, his execrations, his wild heartbroken cries. The
* 37 «-
■<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN <~>
unnerved Abe surrendered twenty dollars after twenty
dollars, until it was all gone. Then Sam, in a white heat,
denounced Abe's breach of trust, lack of manhood, per-
fidy, treachery and insubordination. It was all good
training for Abe in his later career as Sam's chief lieu-
tenant in Hollywood.
At fifteen, Sam went on the road, selling gloves in small
New England towns. The opportunity came to him by
default. No other salesman wanted to tour the grave-
yard circuit and battle with the Yankee general-store
proprietors. Sam had, at the age of ten, experienced a
sudden feeling that he was a great man; others felt the
same way about Sam when he made a success of his sales
campaign among the Puritans. By the time he was
eighteen, he was considered one of the great glove sales-
men in the world. He then took two months off and
went to Europe, meeting his mother at Karlsbad. Every
year after that, Sam went abroad between sales trips. He
developed his instinct for acquainting himself with im-
portant people. He educated himself by relentless in-
quisitiveness and by rare skill in searching other people's
minds. In later life, Goldwyn never did become a Holly-
wood provincial; he is today as well informed on Europe
as any man in the film capital. The young glove sales-
man had made his trips to Europe for pleasure, but they
■> 38 +
<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -f>
helped him later in understanding the foreign film market.
Sam was so successful in selling pictures abroad that he
was able, nearly fifteen years ago, to exclaim, "Gentle-
men, Fve invented a new slogan— 'Goldwyn pictures
griddle the earth.' "
Sam's entrance into the films was an accident. In 191 o
he married Blanche Lasky, who divorced him in 191 5.
She was a sister of Jesse Lasky, then a leading producer
of vaudeville acts. In 191 2, Lasky toyed with the idea of
making films. He listened to Arthur S. Friend, a young
New York lawyer, who had a prophetic sense of the
future of pictures. Friend wanted Lasky to produce long
films that unfolded romantic stories from the beginning
to the end, even if they occupied the screen for an hour.
Lasky was the man to do it, according to Friend, because
Lasky knew vaudeville; a man who understood the mind
of the vaudeville audience would understand the mind
of the future film audience. The project was presented
to Lasky at the wrong time, however. Lasky had just lost
$100,000 in a new venture, the Folies-Bergere theater-
restaurant in New York. It made him conservative. He
wanted to stick to his own field— vaudeville. Friend then
talked to Goldwyn, who was likewise cold. Sam had
plans for starting a glove business of his own.
> 39 «-
<fr> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<->
A year later Sam was ready to listen to Friend. The
Democrats were in power; Sam thought that was bad for
the glove business. He had also been impressed by a
visit to a Herald Square movie house where Broncho
Billy, a two-reel Western, was being shown. The place
was packing them in; fresh stacks of dimes were har-
vested hourly. Broncho Billy inspired Goldwyn at first
with the ambition to become a theater owner. He priced
some theaters and found them out of reach. It seemed
cheaper to make pictures than to exhibit them. Sam
finally did adopt Friend's idea, and went mad about it.
He nearly drove Lasky mad by his incessant repetition
of the same arguments; incessancy being one of Sam's
leading characteristics. He waylaid bankers and Broad-
way producers. When he talked of screen epics and
twenty-five-cent admission charges, Goldwyn was
thought to be suffering from hallucinations. The films
were then in evil repute. The industry seemed to be a
parasite on the white-slave traffic, the average screen mas-
terpiece being a technical educational— expose, it was
called— in the use of knockout drops and poisoned
needles. Also, the flickering of the films caused blinding
headaches and a permanent squint, according to medical
men. Goldwyn made his first dent in the wall of prej-
udice against the movies in October, 191 3. On Columbus
> 40 +
<->- THE GREAT G O L D W Y N -<->"
Day he telephoned a friend to meet him at the Hoffman
"Fve found a backer," said Sam. "He wants us to meet
him with a prospectus. What's a prospectus?"
Friend drew up one on Hoffman House stationery,
but the deal fell through. Sam continued to argue cease-
lessly, day and night, with his brother-in-law. Lasky
finally agreed to give his name, which was a big one in
the amusement world, to the movie venture; but it was
stipulated in writing that Lasky should not be bothered
further on the subject. Friend, Lasky and Mr. and Mrs.
Goldwyn contributed a total of $26,500, the entire capi-
tal on which the enterprise started. The company was
called the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Picture Company,
Friend took an active interest, but he had a law practice
which kept him busy. Goldwyn was the only full-time
worker. He had most of the labor and none of the glory;
Sam had at that time a self-effacing streak which he
Goldwyn's first move was characteristic; he tried to
hire the greatest man in the business, D. W. Griffith.
This was two years before The Birth of a Nation, but
Griffith had already made the four-reel Judith of Bethulia,
a landmark in the film history, and had already invented
the close-up, fade-out, dissolve and practically all the
->• 41 +
•<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -f->
camera technique in use today. "We want you with us,"
said Sam, explaining how his company planned to make
one magnificent hVe-reeler every month, based on some
famous play or novel.
Griffith regarded Sam as an irresponsible young mega-
lomaniac. He said: "Show me $250,000 in the bank and
we'll talk about it."
The job went to Cecil B. de Mille at $100 a week. De
Mille was, at that time, an unhappy young playwright
who was on the verge of going to Mexico to take part
in the civil war. He started to make the first picture, The
Squaw Man, at Flagstaff, Arizona, in order to be near
the Indians, but moved on to Hollywood in order to be
near people who knew how to grind a camera.
The original $26,500 did not pay the cost of produc-
tion. Dustin Farnum, the hero of The Squaw Man, sensed
failure and demanded $5000 cash, instead of a stock in-
terest which would have been worth millions. Sam
raised additional money by masterful salesmanship. He
sold veteran film men all over the country the exhibition
rights of The Squaw Man and eleven other unborn epics.
He collected in advance.
"We're ruined," exclaimed Jesse Lasky at the first
private showing of The Squaw Man. The actors ap-
peared cut off at the waist, their legs walking in the air
> 4* <■
-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<->
several feet above their heads. In a London drawing-
room scene, the floor rose and the ceiling descended,
crushing a mob of aristocrats like grapes in a wine press.
Swarms of actors rose like quail and whizzed off the
screen. Mountains twitched nervously and flitted away.
The same actor appeared in two or three places at once,
boiled around for a while and then pulled himself to-
The trouble was, as it appeared later, that the com-
pany had lacked funds to buy its own equipment. The
scenes had been shot by photographers hired by the day.
One man had a Lumiere camera, another had a Pathe
and a third an Edison. Each camera used a different type
of film. The perforations at the side of each strip of cel-
luloid were spaced differently. The result was that at
the first exhibition of the picture, the perforations, or
sprocket holes, on the films did not fit the sprocket wheel
of the projection machine. The sprocket might catch in
one hole and miss the next three or four. Instead of mov-
ing uniformly, the film received a yank at irregular in-
tervals, and between yanks it wriggled and twisted
through the machine.
Goldwyn, Lasky and others rushed over to Philadel-
phia and laid the wreckage before Sig Lubin, who had
a large film laboratory. The old-timer was enormously
* 43 +
-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<->
amused at the pathetic effort of the Broadway amateurs
to break into his business. He had read some of Gold-
wyn's advertising literature which promised that the new
company would revolutionize the industry. Lubin shook
"Gentlemen, this is very grave," he said. After enjoy-
ing their terror for a while, he added, "But maybe it can
"How long will it take?" asked Sam.
Lubin gazed jovially from one scared face to another.
"I'll have it for you tomorrow," he said.
All that was necessary was to paste accurately spaced
sprocket holes on the sides of the films. The Squaw Man
was a tremendous hit. It did revolutionize the industry.
The Lasky company's second picture was Brewster's
Millions. Its first private showing was another tragedy
to Goldwyn and Lasky. Brewster's Millions was a wild
farce. It unreeled to dead silence. The amateur magnates
had forgotten that they were alone in the theater, and
that it was necessary to have an audience to have gales of
laughter. They were again sure they were ruined. "The
films are no place for comedy," said Goldwyn. On the
following morning Brewster's Millions was shown to a
large audience of exhibitors. Goldwyn was too nervous
to sit through it. He walked round and round the block,
> 44 +
•*-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN ^~>
finally entering the theater about three minutes before
the show was over. He was stunned to hear sounds of
merriment. Adolph Zukor, head of Famous Players, con-
gratulated his rivals.
Later Lasky said to Sam: "Zukor and all the other big
fellows in the pictures smoke big cigars. Maybe we bet-
Each bought a cigar and tried it. Lasky liked it and
has smoked ever since. Sam got sick and never smoked
another. He doesn't even smoke cigarettes, unless a duch-
ess or countess presses one on him, and then he holds it
like a fountain pen.
Lasky became active in the affairs of the company.
This contradicted the old axiom that Goldwyn is boss.
Terrific battles followed. After one combat Friend drove
Sam around Central Park to cool him off. Central Park
wasn't big enough for Sam's next rage. Friend drove him
far down on Long Island.
"Why do you always fight?" asked Friend.
Goldwyn admitted that it came natural, but he shared
the credit with Theodore Roosevelt. Sam had started
reading the newspapers during the Big Stick days. He
devoured T. R.'s fighting speeches.
"Theodore Roosevelt taught me that a man has to
fight," said Sam.
* 45 «■
■*-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<->•
"Yes, but you fight even when people agree with
you," said Friend.
"Yes," said Goldwyn, "but Roosevelt teaches that the
only things worth having are what you fight for."
There were further big rows in the Lasky company.
Sam's associates became desperate. A meeting of De
Mille, Lasky and Friend— three big, easy-going men-
was held to oust Sam. Friend had the deciding vote.
"Fm willing," he said, "to vote Sam out, if you will
promise to stick to it, but I won't vote him out today and
then vote him back in tomorrow. I know he'll break
your hearts and you'll vote him right back."
They voted Sam out. He was notified the following
morning. Before night he had broken the hearts of Lasky
and De Mille and was reinstated.
Both the Lasky company and Zukor's Famous Players
were enormously successful. Zukor had the stars, but the
Lasky company, largely because of De Mille, was the
smartest picture maker. By bidding against each other for
stars, they caused salaries to soar. Zukor, who was first
in the field, had a property which, on paper, appeared
twice as valuable as the Lasky company, but he was so
eager to end competition that he offered a merger on a
50-50 basis. Before the legal agreement was complete,
however, Zukor was as eager to get out of the merger
•> 46 <-
■«->- THE GREAT GOLDWYN -f>
as he had been to get into it. He had seen Sam in action.
Once was enough. Zukor had ordered a contract drawn
to pay Jack Pickford $500 a week; Sam howled and
ordered the contract canceled. Zukor retired to his coun-
try estate, brooded for two days and handed in an ulti-
matum—either Sam must go or the merger must be can-
celed. Sam got out of the company, but he sold his stock
for more than $900,000. Within less than three years
after entering the pictures, he was approximately a mil-
Sam sold out late in 19 16. He started immediately to
organize a new company. He asked Edgar and Arch Sel-
wyn, young Broadway producers, to join him. One of
the assets of the Selwyns was their control of a library
of plays some of which could be adapted to the movies.
Edgar Selwyn was interested, but nervous, having heard
of Sam's rows in the other company.
He went to Zukor and said: "Do you know any reason
why I shouldn't go into business with Sam?"
Zukor studied for a while.
"As far as his honesty and integrity are concerned,
there is none." Zukor studied again for a few moments
and added, "But if you do, you'll be a most unhappy
"Why?" asked Selwyn.
-> 47 <-
-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<->
Zukor studied again. "Sam," he said finally, "is like a
Jersey cow that gives the finest milk, but before you can
take the bucket away, he has kicked it over."
The Selwyns notified Sam that they had decided not
to go into business with him. But you can't do that to
Sam. The Selwyns heard nothing for days except Sam's
incantations. They held out until rigor mortis was about
to set in, and then signed.
Sam's real name was Goldfish. The "Gold" was taken
from Goldfish and the "wyn" from Selwyn, and they
were combined to form the name of Goldwyn. The cor-
poration was called Goldwyn Pictures Corporation.
Sam's original Polish name had been slightly different,
but on his arrival at Ellis Island the immigration officials
had translated it as Goldfish. Sam saw nothing wrong
with the name at that time. During his years as a glove
cutter and glove salesman, the name caused him no mor-
tification. When Sam stepped out into the amusement
world, however, it was different. The name of Goldfish
was made to order for Broadway wits. Sam could not
have provoked more merriment if he wore a pigtail or a
Lord Fauntleroy suit. On being introduced to Goldfish,
you had to say something good or forfeit your reputation
as a quick thinker. Sam arrived late one night at Zieg-
feld's Midnight Frolic and was seated in the rear of the
* 48 +
-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN "<~>
house behind a glass curtain which had been placed there
to cut off a draft. Sam protested at being seated behind
the glass. Gene Buck, Ziegfeld's associate, said, "Behind
glass is the place for a Goldfish." Irvin S. Cobb's Speaking
of Operations came out at about this time in the Saturday
Evening Post with the goldfish simile which every edu-
cated American repeated several times a day. Sam finally
went to his lawyer about it. The lawyer took it up with
the New York Supreme Court and had Goldfish legally
changed to Goldwyn. The Selwyns were furious at hav-
ing half of their name pilfered, but they could do noth-
ing about it. Thousands of corporations have been named
after men, but Sam is one of the few men to be named
There was a perverted sense of justice in Sam's change
of name. For three years he had worked night and day
in the other company to build up the name of Lasky. As
soon as he had mastered the science of publicity, he re-
garded that as one of the major blunders of his life. His
change of name squared the account; all the new com-
pany's publicity now had to glorify Sam personally. It
was years, however, before Goldfish could get himself
accepted as Goldwyn. Broadway resented the loss of so
much sure-fire comedy. Sam is still occasionally ad-
dressed as "Mr. Goldfish." That is offering Sam the poi-
<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -f>
soned chalice. Disgruntled employees hold it out to the
As an embittered newspaperman looks forward to call-
ing the managing editor a so-and-so, so the cankered
Goldwyn employee looks forward to saying "Good-by,
Mr. Goldfish." '
In ousting Sam, the Zukor-Lasky group did not realize
that they were creating a serious competitor. He was
regarded as a good salesman, but as an ignoramus about
picture making. In less than ten years, however, Gold-
wyn's new company was as great a factor in the movie
business as the Zukor-Lasky combination. One of Sam's
first steps had been to interest famous Broadway pro-
ducers like Sam Harris, Arthur Hopkins and Al Woods.
Sam has a certain amiable and attractive side when he
wants to employ it. The combination of nuisance value
and charm generally proved irresistible.
Sam was out to make great pictures, Goldwyn epics.
He was willing to experiment and take chances. Arthur
Hopkins made two suggestions for elevating the art, both
of which were eagerly embraced by Goldwyn. The first
was to have famous designers make the set. Hugo Ballin
and Everett Shinn were engaged. A great improvement
in the picture-making art resulted. The second Hopkins
suggestion was to make films without subtitles, the action
■> 50 -f
<->■ THE GREAT GOLDWYN <->
to be indicated so clearly that there would be no need to
interrupt the flow of the picture for dialogue or verbal
explanations. Hopkins was assigned to make Fighting
Odds, a wordless picture. The idea excited all the sales-
manship in Sam. If successful, it would give the new
Goldwyn company a whirlwind start. When the all-
pantomime film was partly made, theater owners were
called in. Most of them thought their audiences would
resent it. At the last minute the picture was filled with
clumsy subtitles. The effect was disastrous.
Sam's greatest problem was that of finding stars. His
rivals had contracts with nearly all the screen favorites.
The first world celebrity to march under the Goldwyn
banner was Maxine Elliott, who had had a twenty-year
reign as the most beautiful woman on the stage. She was
not the film type, however, and she had the bad luck to
be the star of Fighting Odds, the ruined experiment in
wordless pictures. The film was not only a failure in it-
self but it caused some exhibitors to cancel contracts for
all future Goldwyn pictures. Sam's next effort to de-
throne Mary Pickford and Theda Bara was his engage-
ment of Mary Garden. She cost him $15,000 a week,
and her Thais was a failure. Sam had supposed that
Mary's prestige would sweep movie audiences off their
feet, but he found that the movie public confused her
* 5i +
-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN <->-
with Mary Gardner, a heroine of the five-cent-picture
days. Mary Garden is a great admirer of Goldwyn. "Sam
and Oscar Hammerstein," she said, "are the two men
you could trust without a contract." There was one con-
solation for Sam— Zukor and Lasky made a bigger mis-
take than he did. They tried to star Caruso as a romantic
hero; on the silent screen he was just a 200-pound Nea-
politan; the Caruso picture not only lost an enormous
amount of cash but created a million dollars' worth of ill-
Sam has boundless courage, and is always at his best
in disaster. He is unhappy and frightened when his affairs
are prospering. Goldwyn hits alarm him; they inspire the
fear that he and his whole staff will start resting on their
oars. A famous director said, "I asked Sam how his Anna
Sten picture was doing. His face lit up. He beamed and
said, Tm losing my shirt.' I asked him about his Cantor
picture. His jaw dropped and he became a picture of
misery. He said, It'll make me a million.' '
Sam was at his happiest and best in 19 18 when the
sheriff's hot breath was always on his neck. He had in-
vested huge sums in the wrong stars. The war had re-
duced theater attendance. In order to save coal, the Gov-
ernment had cut the commercial use of electric light, so
that it was impracticable to make pictures at the Gold-
* 5* +
>>>>>>>> > tt < < < < -f < < < <
THREE MEN OF MOODS
Left to right: Harpo Marx,
Max Reinhardt, Samuel Gold-
-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN "f>
wyn studio at Fort Lee, New Jersey. His competitors
were using the free sunshine of Hollywood. Sam broke
his ankle playing handball at the New York Athletic
Club. He lay in a hospital bed with his injured leg in a
hammock when a committee of his associates, including
Al Woods, Arthur Hopkins, Sam Harris and Edgar Sel-
wyn, called to tell him that bankruptcy was inevitable.
Each told blacker news than the other. Sam sat propped
up on the pillows, his fingertips pressed together. He
"Gentlemen," he said, "I see nothing but roses."
He met the week's pay roll by wiring his agencies to
forward all cash on hand. Then he made some swift con-
tacts with the Du Ponts and other sources of money. The
armistice came in time to help him. Soon Sam was flour-
ishing again. As he flourished, he became unhappy and
began to squabble with his new associates. They got to-
gether and voted him out of his own company. Trouble
made Sam less objectionable; they voted him back again.
After a merger, the Goldwyn company became
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Sam got out finally in 1923.
There were some negotiations for his return. These, it
was said, failed because Sam now wanted to change the
name of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to Metro-Goldwyn-
Mayer & Goldwyn. Sam started a third company in 1923,
* 53 <■
<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN "<->
but he found himself in grave danger of losing his beau-
tiful new name. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer sued to prevent
Sam. from calling himself Goldwyn. A compromise was
finally reached, permitting Sam to offer his pictures with
the announcement, "Samuel Goldwyn Presents."
Goldwyn has a long record of "discoveries." Again
and again he has made stars out of extras and bit players,
but one young actress whom he failed to discover was
Frances Howard. While Miss Howard was in her teens,
Billic Burke took her to the Goldwyn studio in New
York for a screen test. Sam saw the test. He called the
head of the screen-test department upon the carpet.
"Why," he demanded, "do you waste time and money
this way?" Later Sam saw Miss Howard personally. The
first time he ever spoke to her, he said, "You used to be
fairly good-looking. Now that you've gone and bobbed
your hair, you're terrible."
Sam was at that time campaigning against short hair.
He felt so keenly on the subject that he once instructed
his press department to cable to Rome and invite the
Vatican to join him in his crusade against the bob. About
a year after the screen test, Miss Howard made a hit on
Broadway as the flapper in The Best People. She was
hailed as one of the great beauties of the time. Paramount
signed her and she made a screen hit as the star in The
■> 54 «-
«<->- THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<->
Swan. Sam reversed himself. On April 23, 1925, he and
Miss Howard were married at the City Hall, in Jersey
Just before they drove over to Jersey City, Miss How-
ard said, "Sam, there's a new magazine called The New
Yorker. I hear it's clever. I wish you would get me a
copy of it."
Sam got a copy. While waiting for his fiancee, he
started reading it in his automobile. He was surprised to
see his own picture. It was over an article which de-
scribed Sam as the greatest man in Hollywood, a giant
among pygmies. It credited him with imagination, infal-
lible intuition, unlimited courage. Then it proceeded to
explain Sam's greatness on the theory that he only had
ten words in his vocabulary, most of them bad. A ten-
word man, it argued, can always trample on the intellec-
tuals, puzzled in their fogs of learning. On the other
hand, it stated that five-word men could tower over and
crush Sam with ease. In the course of some tributes to his
artistic integrity, it said that an instinctive love of beauty
was Sam's greatest trait next to acquisitiveness; also that he
had once said to Edna Ferber, "I would rather make a
great artistic picture than— than eat a good meal." Sam
put the magazine away when Miss Howard entered the
car; later he opened a window and pushed it out.
* 55 +
*f> THE GREAT GOLDWYN <->*
"What was that?" she asked.
He ignored the question and talked rapidly of other
"Did you get the magazine?" she asked.
"I forgot," said Sam.
He told people afterward that he was afraid she would
break the engagement if she read it before the ceremony.
"I learned later," said Sam, "that the article had been
written by my press agent."
Sam had sworn Edgar Selwyn, his best man, to secrecy
about the wedding.
"Why?" asked Selwyn.
"I don't want any publicity," said Sam.
"You don't want any publicity!" said Selwyn.
"No," said Sam, "I don't want any publicity."
Selwyn had never before known Sam to make any
anti-publicity arrangements; it was like Dexter Fellows
asking people to make a confidential matter of the circus.
Selwyn kept the secret, but he didn't think Sam would.
There were mobs of newspapermen at the wedding. Sam
posed relentlessly for the photographers and scraped
conversations indefatigably with the reporters.
"I thought you didn't want any publicity," said Sel-
"Can I control the press?" inquired Goldwyn.
-> 56 +
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> >a< <<<<<<<<<<<<<< <
GOLDWYN HAS ALWAYS HAD A PASSION FOR
quality. When he was a nineteen-year-old glove
salesman, he tried to organize a company to manufac-
ture gloves of unparalleled quality. The plan collapsed
because the financial backer withdrew on learning that
Sam was a minor and could not be bound by a contract.
"Quality" pictures were Sam's aim when he entered
the films in 191 3, and he was a leading factor in the
change from the Wild West thrillers and the white-
slave shockers to the modern feature picture. In 19 19,
Sam wanted to elevate the pictures again. For several
years he had had the idea that the writer should be the
key man in the pictures; that the scenario or script
* 57 «-
-<-> THE GREAT G O L D W Y N ■<->
should be something better than a rough draft for a di-
rector to follow or throw away, as he saw fit. Sam had
an inspiration; he would corner the world supply of lit-
erary artists; all great writers would be Goldwyn writers.
In his enthusiasm, Sam thought that he might be able
to advertise the names of the writers in big lights and
the names of the stars in small lights. If the movie public
accepted this, it would solve Sam's problem. When he
broke away from Zukor and Lasky in 191 6, and founded
his own company, Goldwyn's great difficulty was that
of finding stars. His competitors had most of the popu-
lar favorites under contract. If Sam could make the pub-
lic more excited over Gertrude Atherton than Mary
Pickford or wilder over Gouverneur Morris than Doug-
las Fairbanks, the Goldwyn company would lead the
Sam organized The Eminent Authors Inc. His first
consignment of genius to arrive in Hollywood included
Rex Beach, Rupert Hughes, Mary Roberts Rinehart,
Gertrude Atherton, Basil King, Gouverneur Morris and
Leroy Scott. Sam's new move frightened his competi-
tors. They doubted if men of letters would become
great box-office stars, but they wanted to be protected.
Sam had cleaned up the home market so thoroughly
that his rivals had to import Elinor Glyn, Sir Gilbert
-> 58 <-
■<->- THE GREAT GOLDWYN "<->■
Parker, Somerset Maugham, Arnold Bennett and others.
Ordinary writers were weeded out of the studios to
make room for famous authors. One of the ousted sce-
narists was Darryl F. Zanuck, now chief of Twentieth
Century-Fox, who was reduced to working in a ship-
For a time the heaviest duty of Sam's eminent authors
was that of being photographed in the act of gazing ad-
miringly at Sam. When they started to write for the
pictures, the results were not uniform.
Sam read the first work of Leroy Scott and said: "Mr.
Scott, you are undoubtedly the greatest writer in the
world, but maybe this is not good for the movies."
When he read the first scenario by Basil King, Sam
said, "Mr. King, you are undoubtedly the greatest writer
in the world, but maybe this is not good for the movies."
Every Goldwyn author was told that he was un-
doubtedly the greatest writer in the world, and so on.
The venture was not wholly a failure, however. Sam
got his money's worth in publicity, and Rupert Hughes
wrote the script of The Old Nest, which drew more
than a million dollars at the box office.
Sam wanted to make a Goldwyn writer of George
Bernard Shaw. They discussed it over tea one day in
London. Shaw thought Sam was too esthetic to be a
* 59 +
<->■ THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<->■
practical man. A version of the conversation was cabled
over to Howard Dietz, Goldwyn's publicity chief; he
compressed Shaw's words into: "The trouble, Mr. Gold-
wyn, is that you are only interested in art and I am
only interested in money." This was cabled back to
London and released there. It added considerably to
Shaw's reputation as a wit.
The most eminent of Goldwyn's Eminent Authors
was Maurice Maeterlinck. The great Belgian poet had
come to the United States shortly after the war for a
lecture tour. His first appearance was at Carnegie Hall.
Maeterlinck spoke no English. He wrote the lecture in
French and had it translated literally into English. Then
he had each English syllable retranslated into a French
syllable. Each English sound was to be rendered by an
approximate French sound. The result was a lecture in
mispronounced anagrams. Delivered to a Franco-Amer-
ican audience, it was equally unintelligible to the French
and to the Americans. It was a new literary form; it was
not even nonsense, so it topped Gertrude Stein.
The lecture caused the cancellation of the rest of the
lecture tour. Maeterlinck was free, and Sam went after
him. Since his words had to be translated, Sam was shorn
of half of his sales craft; his gestures and grimaces failed
-> 60 +
-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN "<->■
to synchronize with his selling points. Thus handi-
capped, Sam made slow progress. He thought the poet's
weakness was vanity, and he tried to play on this infirm-
ity by explaining what it meant to Maeterlinck to get to
be a Goldwyn writer; how proud the folks back home
would be. Sam made a success story of it— a rookie be-
coming a big-league star overnight. Maeterlinck looked
blank. Sam tried again to fire the man's ambition; "You'll
get equal treatment with Rex Beach," he said. Maeter-
linck still had an expression of bewilderment which Sam
took for an expression of incredulity. Sam ordered all
the contracts with eminent authors to be brought in.
"You're getting as much money as any of them," said
Sam. To verify this, he handed the Basil King contract
"You know Basil King?" said Sam.
This was translated to Maeterlinck, who said: "Non."
Other contracts were handed to the Belgian, and
other questions translated by the interpreter.
"You know Rupert Hughes?"
"Mary Roberts Rinehart?"
-> 61 <-
-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN "<->
Sam went down the list, getting a "Non" at each
He turned to his press agent and whispered: "What's
the matter with this guy? Is he dumb?"
Maeterlinck understood five figures, however, and he
joined the Goldwyn literary colony. The private car
which had been used by Woodrow Wilson when he
stumped the country for the League of Nations was ob-
tained by Howard Dietz, the publicity chief, for Mae-
terlinck's trip from New York to Hollywood. A pub-
licity man was placed on the car to issue, at every stop,
statements by Maeterlinck glorifying America and
America was eager to hear from the poet. The Blue
Bird craze started by Maeterlinck's play was fresh in the
public mind. The publicity scheme was a disappoint-
ment, however, to Dietz and Goldwyn. One member of
the party in the private car was Maeterlinck's lecture
manager. Maeterlinck would soon pick up enough Eng-
lish to make a million-dollar lecture tour of America,
according to the manager's reasoning, and he had a con-
tract for a percentage of the receipts. He reasoned fur-
ther that, if Maeterlinck gave away a lot of words now,
he would not be able to sell them later. To the lecture
> 62. <-
-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<->-
manager, every Maeterlinck statement to the press to-
day meant a hundred empty seats sometime in the fu-
ture. The entire journey was a battle between the pub-
licity man and the lecture manager, the poet siding with
the lecture manager, who wore a frock coat and called
him ''Master." For hundreds of miles at a stretch, the
Maeterlinck special got less publicity than a cattle train.
Goldwyn's representative at Dallas was a go-getting
Texan named Lew Remy. He arranged a banquet there
for Maeterlinck. The mayor of Dallas, the governor of
Texas and all the leading citizens of the Southwest came.
The banquet was a disappointment. The great Belgian
did not arrive. The lecture manager had rerouted the
private car and made it miss Dallas entirely. Lew Remy
learned the new route that the Maeterlinck party was
taking, and wired to a Texas friend at another town to
meet the train and page the lecture manager. "Then
punch him in the nose," concluded Remy's message. The
lecture manager was duly paged.
"Are you Mr. — ?" asked Remy's friend.
"I am," said the manager.
Instantly he was stretched out flat on the platform.
Arriving finally at Hollywood, Maeterlinck demanded
a house on a hilltop, so that he could see the sun better.
That was provided. There are witnesses in Hollywood
-> 63 +
-f> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<->
who will sign affidavits that Maeterlinck's first effort
was a film adaptation of his Life of a Bee, and that, on
reading it, Goldwyn ran out screaming, "My God, the
hero is a bee!" Goldwyn's own recollection is that Mae-
terlinck's first scenario was about a little boy and a mat-
tress and a lot of blue feathers.
In order to saturate the poet in Hollywood psychol-
ogy, he was then taken, day after day, to projection
rooms to see action pictures. His next scenario started
with the lid slowly rising from a sewer in a street of
Paris; up from the sewer came the face of a gory and
bedraggled female Apache with a dagger gripped be-
tween her teeth. Maeterlinck's Hollywood writings were
not made into pictures. It is said that, when Maeterlinck
left Hollywood, Goldwyn saw him to the station, pat-
ted him on the shoulder and said, "Don't worry, Mau-
rice. You'll make good yet."
Maeterlinck was at Cannes a year ago when Goldwyn
was there with Lord Beaverbrook; Sam was asked if he
wanted to meet Maeterlinck; "No," he said, "I saw
enough of that man years ago."
In spite of his experiences with Maeterlinck and cer-
tain other members of Eminent Authors Pictures, Inc.,
Goldwyn always stuck to his theory that the writers
were the most important people in the pictures. Gold-
■> 64 «-
-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<->■
wyn is king, but writers are those nearest the throne.
Sam will go anywhere, do anything, to sign a man he
thinks is a great writer. To some extent he has suffered
because of his worship of letters. For nearly a quarter
of a century he has surrounded himself with crack nov-
elists and playwrights. They studied Goldwyn as a
strange zoological specimen. They treasured his curious
sayings and constantly added to the Goldwyn legend.
Some intimates of Sam assert that he does not make any
more breaks in English than any other man who was not
reared by a governess, but that Sam's breaks are always
caught and preserved. Except for years of close associa-
tion with writers, Goldwyn would not be known today
as a surrealist word painter and master of the misspoken
word. On the other hand, Sam has benefited by his as-
sociation with writers. He can be articulate when he
abandons his mind to it; much of the time, however, he
is struggling with ideas and lets expression take care of
itself. Sam may be lucky that his English education con-
sisted only of one year at night school; his power seems
to consist in a simplicity and elemental directness of
mind which does not always flourish under higher edu-
cation. There was not even a dictionary at the night
school that Sam attended. He was astonished at the
enormous size of a volume which was brought forth at
+ 65 -f
-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN •<->■
a Hollywood party to be consulted at the game of Gug-
"What a big book!" said Sam. "Who wrote it?"
"Webster," was the reply.
"It must have taken him a long time."
"About a century."
"My, my!" said Sam. "Fifty years!"
Sam laid no claim to being an artist when he organized
the Lasky company in 191 3. He was the salesman and
businessman of the company. When he organized his
own company in 191 6, he was everything. He found
that he had to do his own editing and cutting in order to
keep studio politics and studio amours out of the pic-
tures. Some of the directors were more intent on their
own romances than on those of the pictures; close-ups
and other scenes were sometimes slipped in for reasons
not connected with the plot. Salesmanship was Gold-
wyn's specialty, and he found that he ought to know all
about his pictures in order to sell them.
For example, after the war Sam saw a chance to in-
vade England, so he looked for pictures that he could
sell to the British public. Among others he made Lord
and Lady Algy and The Gay Lord Quex. He went
abroad to sell them. One of his cables home was, "I went
to see Lord and Lady Algy three nights ago and I am
* 66 +
-«-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<->
still sick." Sam insisted on better pictures, so that he
could sell them better. He absorbed picture knowledge
rapidly and developed into one of the shrewdest judges
of story values.
Sam's competitors were slow in admitting his talent as
a producer, but they venerated him as a salesman, show-
man and publicity man. He has always been considered
unequalled at stirring up excitement about his forth-
coming pictures. Theater owners bleated about Sam's
prices, but they nearly all paid them. One of Sam's rare
defeats in a duel between buyer and seller was inflicted
on him by the late Abraham Finkelstein, of Minneapolis.
Salesmen reported that Finkelstein was obdurate; he posi-
tively refused to buy a Goldwyn picture at the price
asked. Sam gave the agent an inspirational talk by tele-
phone; the agent tackled Finkelstein again, but failed
again. "I'll go there myself and show you how to sell
pictures," said Sam.
He was off for Minneapolis. Finkelstein, a tall, elderly,
stoop-shouldered man, listened to Sam with grave cour-
tesy until Sam named the price; then he pressed a
buzzer. Two men in the uniforms of lunatic-asylum at-
tendants came in and led Sam out. Sam came back later
and announced that he would build a theater in Minne-
apolis and run Finkelstein out of business. Finkelstein
> 67 +
■<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN <->•
reached for his hat and coat. "Come with me," he said,
"and I'll show you the best sites." He drove Sam around
town, pointing out the good locations for movie palaces,
but Sam didn't build.
Sam's love of publicity for the name of Goldwyn has
been attributed to egotism. This theory is not utterly
fantastic. Sam does not try to conceal the fact that he
has an ego. In a word battle with Herman Shumlin, the
Broadway producer, Sam could think of nothing more
withering to say than "You're a bigger egotist than I
am." Publicity for the name of Goldwyn, however, is
important in salesmanship. The public may not be
stampeded into picture houses by the mere name of
Goldwyn, but the name does mean something to pro-
prietors and managers of motion-picture houses. If Sam
made inferior pictures, his personal publicity would be
injurious to him. His name would be associated in the
minds of exhibitors with vacant seats and red ink. While
Sam steadily produces superior pictures, his personal pub-
licity is an important department of salesmanship. Sam
has had many of the best press agents in the country, but
they have never got enough publicity to satisfy him for
long. Pete Smith, now the famous Voice of the Films,
was a Goldwyn press agent. He did satisfy Sam once for
two or three days by a publicity coup.
-> 68 +
J^K&, ' H
■ ""'- ■■■-< i
PP i* 5
TIME OUT ON THE SET
This picture was taken during
the fihning of "Barbary Coast"
in 193 5. Left to right: Miriam
Hopkins, Mr. Goldwyn, Edna
Ferber, Howard Hawks, Law-
rence Tibbett, Edward G. Rob-
-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -f>
^—— ^ ^ — ■ — — — — ^^^-^^^^^^^^^"^^^^^^»
Pete Smith proposed the idea that Sam should get him-
self talked about by announcing that there were only
thirteen real actors in Hollywood and naming them. Sam
was afraid at first; he thought it would create thirteen
ingrates and a thousand enemies. Finally Sam had a
stroke of genius himself; he said, "I'll name twelve and
say the thirteenth is a mystery, and every actor and
actress in Hollywood will think he's the mystery." It
made a sensation, and Sam followed it up next day with a
column discussing possible entries for the thirteenth
Sam was abroad part of the time while Pete Smith was
his press agent. He returned to Hollywood full of en-
thusiasm. Laying some large photographs of himself be-
fore the press agent, Sam said: "What do you think of
"All right," said Smith.
"Only all right?" inquired Sam.
"They do justice to you," said Smith. "They look as
if they would reproduce all right."
"Pete, I'm disappointed in you," said Goldwyn. "Don't
you see they're eleven by fourteen inches? They're too
big for the newspapers to put in one column. Don't you
grasp the idea? From now on they'll have to print my
picture in two columns."
■> 69 +
-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN ^~>
The publicity man broke his employer's heart by ex-
plaining that newspapers could take a photograph as big
as a billboard and reduce it to a one-column cut. Pete
Smith, like some other hard-boiled publicity men who
worked for Goldwyn, did not take him too seriously,
and put up with his tantrums as long as he paid well.
Sam had a love of being met by impressive turnouts
on his arrival from New York or Europe. Smith man-
aged to get a couple of bona-fide news photographers
down to the train, and then padded out the camera bat-
talion by calling on personal friends to show up at the
station with cameras.
Sam, always a tremendous walker, used to make Smith
walk with him in the mornings from the Goldwyn home
to the Goldwyn studio, a distance of four or five miles.
One morning Sam saw a rival's advertising banner
stretched across Beverly Boulevard.
"That's good advertising," said Sam. "That's what I
want for our premiere. Only instead of one banner, I
want hundreds— one on every corner, all the way to the
Smith saw that the banner stretched across the street
between two pieces of property owned by the rival com-
pany. He could see that Goldwyn's idea of hundreds of
banners would mean hundreds of negotiations with prop-
> 70 +
-<->■ THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<->
erty owners. Furthermore, there was a city ordinance
against such banners. He knew, however, that opposi-
tion would only make Sam rabid in favor of the idea. His
only escape from an impossible task was to make a bad
argument in favor of it.
He estimated that the banners would cost about fifteen
dollars apiece, and he said: "That's a great scheme. Those
banners will only cost a hundred and fifty or a hundred
and seventy-five dollars apiece. We can put up two hun-
dred of them for about thirty thousand dollars, or more
if you like."
It ended with Goldwyn rebuking Smith for having
such an expensive and mediocre idea.
The Goldwyn publicity department is a sort of public-
health department at times. The streak of the absolute
monarch in Sam inspires him with real anxiety for the
health of all the potentates of the earth. He is said to
identify himself with them so closely that when one is
sick, Sam goes on a diet; when one dies, Sam feels that
his own time has come.
He is like a certain Princess of Tarente, who put on
mourning whenever a member of any royal house died
in any part of Europe. On one occasion she did appear
in brilliant colors; Madame de Sevigne said, "Madame, I
rejoice in the health of Europe." Similarly, if Sam is gay,
* 71 <■
<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN <->-
it means there are not likely to be any big obituaries in
the paper tomorrow. He does at times worry about other
than the top personalities. One Saturday afternoon he
met a studio executive who seemed seriously stricken.
"You look all run down," said Sam. "Go home. Don't
come back till Monday morning." Sam was discovered
one day in distress. He had before him a letter telling
him not to send any more money to an aged woman liv-
ing in New York, because she had died; she had been
Sam's first landlady when he arrived in New York as a
boy, and had fed and lodged him when he was broke.
Another streak of humanity asserted itself in Goldwyn
once when he recognized an extra on one of his sets.
"Come away quick," he said to his studio manager. The
extra had once been a Goldwyn star; she had quarreled
with him, had become a free lance and had bad luck. "I
didn't want her to see me," said Goldwyn. "It would
embarrass her." His chief anxiety, however, is for great
He called up his press agent one morning and asked:
"How is the President?"
"Fine," said the press agent. "I was with him last night
and he was fine."
"What do you mean, you were with him last night?"
"Mr. Schenck and I were together last night," said
> 72- <-
-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN <->■
the press agent, referring to Joseph Schenck, president
of United Artists.
"No, no," said Goldwyn. "I mean Roosevelt. The
paper says he has a cold. Find out how he is and let me
know at once."
The press agent telephoned to a friend on the United
Press and found out the President was all right. He then
telephoned to Goldwyn and said: "I had the UP carry
a special wire to the White House saying Mr. Goldwyn
was anxious to know how the President was this morn-
ing, and the President thanks Mr. Goldwyn for his kind-
ness and says that he is feeling much better."
"That's the kind of service I like," said Goldwyn. He
was satisfied with the press agent for hours.
As Pete Smith used to pad the welcoming camera bat-
teries with dummies, another press agent used to uphol-
ster the Goldwyn interviews with fraudulent interroga-
tors. Two or three local reporters would be present. In
addition, the publicity man would call in eight or ten re-
liable pals who would be presented to Goldwyn as "Mr.
Wolgast, of the Chicago Tribune, Mr. Berlenbach, of
the New York Times, Mr. Greb, of the London Daily
News," and so on. Devices of this kind, however, were
only used when it was considered important to put on a
special show. The Goldwyn publicity man's brain is usu-
* 73 «-
"<->■ THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<->
ally working with great rapidity in the interest of get-
ting big displays in newspapers and magazines. Goldwyn
men have to have their hearts in the cause.
There has always been an argument among Goldwyn
scholars as to whether his rages are genuine, or part of a
routine. Sam is an old head salesman both in gloves and
pictures. A head salesman's business is to scourge the
soul of the junior salesman in order to fill him with enter-
prise. You blast his morale, accuse him of wrongfully
cumbering the earth and cheating potter's field, and then
send him forth to overwhelm the customers with his vic-
torious personality. However, Goldwyn does not dis-
criminate in favor of his own subordinates in his rages
and furies; he has had shouting affrays with nearly all the
big figures in the industry, and when he lets go there is
not a word in or out of the language that he hesitates to
use. The theory that his tornadoes are artificial is based
on the fact that he can turn off the ferocity and turn on
the charm in an instant. He has no hangover from one
mood to another. An outburst that might leave another
man sick for days is completely out of Sam's system the
moment the uproar is over. He is too busy to waste time
in the transition from one emotional state to another. A
split second separates Ivan the Terrible from Mr. Pick-
■> 74 +
"<->■ THE GREAT GOLDWYN "<->
One day Sam blazed away at his current press chief,
Jock Lawrence, most of the afternoon. After going to
bed that night, Sam summoned the press agent and started
blazing away again. Samuel Goldwyn, Jr., then a boy of
seven or eight, entered the room to say good night to his
father. Sam's fist stopped in mid-air; he beamed; he chat-
ted gaily about school problems; at last he tenderly ad-
vised his son to run along and get plenty of sleep.
As the boy was leaving the room, Sam made a genial
gesture in the direction of Jock Lawrence and cooed:
"Kiss Uncle Jock good night."
The boy obeyed and left.
"And furthermore — " resumed Sam, furiously ad-
dressing the publicity man, starting to rail at him again
from the precise point at which he had been interrupted
by the entrance of Sam, Jr.
Sam thinks so fast that the latter end of his argument
sometimes refutes the beginning.
"I have never had a lawsuit in my career," he said.
"That shows you that I'm easy to get along with. I'm
the most reasonable man out here. I've never had a law-
suit worth mentioning. Three or four, maybe. Right now
I'm being sued by Paramount for 6.vq million dollars. It's
one of the most important lawsuits in the country."
He started a speech to salesmen once by telling them
* 75 +
<->* THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<->
to be reasonable with theater owners, some of whom had
complained of being gouged. He asked the salesmen to
be very moderate in their demands. But in his peroration
the old sales instinct seized him, and he exhorted them to
go after the last cent. The final line of his speech is gen-
erally quoted. "This business is dog eat dog, and nobody
is going to eat me."
He complained by telephone because another studio
had borrowed a Goldwyn writer for a few hours with-
out his permission. Sam was told that every effort had
been made to get in touch with him, and that it was
finally assumed that he would have been agreeable.
Sam kept repeating: "If you only had the decency to
"What would you have said, Mr. Goldwyn?"
"I would have said 'No,' " replied Sam.
Sam fears contentment. He has seen contentment ruin
many of the great figures in the industry. He is afraid
of making the people around him contented; that is one
cause of his being more liberal with blame than with
praise. A press agent once wanted to resign; one reason
was that Goldwyn had never said a good word about his
work. "If I don't say it's bad, it's good," said Sam. He
hates yes men; he loves no men, but he is fond of having
no men answer him in the affirmative. This becomes com-
> 76 -<-
4"> THE GREAT GOLDWYN ■<->
plicated. Sam once became greatly smitten with a Holly-
wood executive noted for his rugged way of saying no.
Sam hired him at an enormous salary; the man turned
out to be a yes man; he could say no to others, but not
to the furious Goldwyn. The contract expired; the em-
ployee was held over on a weekly salary to finish a job;
no longer in awe of Sam, he was able to say, "It stinks.
. . . It's awful. . . . It's gruesome," and so on. Sam, im-
pressed, put him under contract again; the man again
started saying, "It's fine. . . . It's great. . . . It's wonder-
ful," and wa^ useless again.
Sam is at his best when talking to one person. He is a
tete-a-tete evangelist. His man-to-man conferences be-
come rousing revivals or camp meetings, and usually end
with the party of the second part on the mourner's
bench, putting his signature on a contract. The day be-
fore his death last January, Richard Boleslawski, the de-
rector, said that one of his most memorable experiences
was a talk with Goldwyn.
"My book, The Way of a Lancer, had just come out,"
he said. "Sam called me over in great haste and wanted
to buy it then and there. I told him there were two other
interested parties and that I couldn't sell it without their
permission. He handed me two telephones and said, 'Get
them.' I got one in New York and one in Ohio. Sam bat-
+ 77 +
"<->• THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<~>
tied with them over the price, but a good stiff one was
finally agreed on. 'We'll sign right now/ said Sam, put-
ting five hundred dollars option money in my hand. I
said I thought I ought to see my lawyer. He put his arm
around me and said, Til be your lawyer.' I tried to argue,
but he hypnotized me. There was no standing up against
his impetuosity. He drew up the contract and T signed
it. Later he changed his mind and didn't want to make
The Way of a Lancer. I thought the contract called for
the amount agreed on, but it only called for the five hun-
dred dollars option money. I never felt that Sam intended
to take advantage, but I thought I would have been bet-
ter advised to see a lawyer. That was my only personal
contact with him, but I am one of his greatest admirers.
He has a real and spontaneous love of beauty. He hates
the phony and will do anything to get the real thing."
* 78 +
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> >ft< <<<<<<<<<<<<<< <
THE ONLY PROLONGED VACATION THAT GOLD-
wyn ever took during his movie career was in 1923.
It was an involuntary one. Sam had been defeated in a
battle for control of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The head
of the anti-Goldwyn faction was the late Joe Godsol.
The hate between Joe and Sam was satanic. Godsol was
not satisfied with taking Sam's company away from him.
In an effort to inflict the greatest possible humiliation on
Sam, Joe took to studying maps. He picked out a remote
hamlet in Canada. He issued a peremptory order to Sam
to proceed forthwith to this frontier post, establish an
M-G-M office there and take charge of it.
In order to enjoy his revenge to the full, Godsol had
* 79 +
-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<->
spies watch Sam and see how he took it. Sam was a dis-
appointment. His everyday rages were so terrific that he
could not improve on them. Sam appreciated the insult;
he, a founder of the two greatest companies in the pic-
tures, ordered to the region of perpetual snows; but he
had developed his routine frenzy to such a point that he
could not top it on a special occasion.
Instead of going to Canada, Sam took a house at Great
Neck, Long Island, and started to take it easy while law-
yers adjusted his affairs with M-G-M. Arthur Hammer-
stein, the Broadway producer, shared the Great Neck
house with Sam.
One day Goldwyn arrived at Great Neck, dusty and
abnormally indignant. "I'm going to have that chauffeur
arrested," he said. Before his row with M-G-M, Sam had
bossed thousands; since then he had only had his driver
to boss. Sam did not know how to operate a car him-
self, but he was outraged by every move the driver made.
For days the man was the exclusive recipient of the an-
ger which Goldwyn had normally distributed among
multitudes. Finally he drove Goldwyn to a lonely spot
on the Jericho Turnpike in the most deserted section of
Long Island. He stopped the car and got out. "I'm quit-
ting," he said, and walked rapidly off. Goldwyn had to
tramp for miles to find a man to drive him home.
■> 80 +
<<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN <->
While he was marking time at Great Neck, Goldwyn
started to dictate his memoirs. Sam's prose at that time
was not up to his later standard. Hammerstein asked,
"Who's going to translate it for you?" It was entitled,
Behind the Screen. Sam sold the book, magazine, serial
and other rights to it for more than $ 1 00,000. The book
complimented everybody in the pictures except Godsol.
Between stretches of dictation, Sam learned to swim at
the Great Neck beach. Even Sam's paddling in Long Is-
land Sound was done in royal Goldwyn manner. He was
always going too far out and being rescued. Sam was the
sovereign; all others his faithful liege men. He risked
drowning because he felt sure that a retinue of his faith-
ful subjects would always be at hand to save him.
Sam's long vacation ended after he had sold his inter-
est in M-G-M for a big price. He now founded a new
company, Samuel Goldwyn, Inc., Ltd. After his experi-
ences with associates, directors and stockholders, Sam de-
cided to have nothing further to do with them, and for
the last fourteen years he has been absolute within his
own domain. His former companies are great organiza-
tions, each of which turns out forty-five or fifty pictures
a year. Goldwyn is content to make only eight or nine,
but he works over every detail of these. He has vetoed
all proposals to expand by selling stock to the public or
> 81 +
-<->- THE GREAT GOLDWYN •«-»-
by taking in partners. "I found," he said, "that it took a
world of time to explain my plans to my associates; now
I can save all that time and energy, and put it into mak-
ing better pictures."
Sam has become more important since he started to go
it alone and to make a comparatively small number of
pictures annually. His former associates rubbed their eyes
twelve years ago when he made Stella Dallas. When he
followed this with The Dark Angel, it had to be admit-
ted that Stella Dallas was no accident. Sam had to be a
pacemaker in quality. As an independent competing with
the big factories of Hollywood and the large theater
chains, he had to make superior pictures or quit.
Goldwyn prides himself on looking ahead and reading
the future. He has a good record as a prophet. When the
talking picture came in, a decade ago, he saw that it
would revolutionize love. The needle hiss, the frying
sound and other incidental noises of the early apparatus
spoiled the tender sequences. Audiences which used to
pant at the prolonged clinches and three-minute kisses
went into hysterics. The sweethearts of the early talkies
were inclined to lisp or croak. John Gilbert and other
important heartbreakers were whistled off the screen be-
cause their love talk was a mixture of guttural and fal-
setto. Ronald Colman, a Goldwyn star, was saved from
* 82. «-
-<->■ THE GREAT GOLDWYN "<->"
this. Sam would not let Colman carry on a courtship or
even a flirtation in the presence of the primitive micro-
phone which caused a lover to low like a young bull
calf. He took the star out of romance and put him into
melodrama, and Colman maintained his prestige. There
was no serious billing and cooing in Goldwyn pictures
until the sound apparatus stopped making Romeos sound
like barnyard imitators.
Sam was one of the first to realize that dialogue was to
be far more important in the talkies than subtitles had
been in the silent pictures. One great director of that
time had said, "We don't need anybody to write dia-
logue. Just put the actors into the situations and let them
say what pops into their minds." It was discovered that
this did not work. It was also discovered that the writing
of dialogue was different from the writing of subtitles.
The ear was found to be more critical than the eye. The
conversation, or subtitles, of the silent days could be
naive or maudlin or bombastic without irritating the eye,
but the ear was less tolerant. It was found to rebel against
phony effects. Goldwyn had always regarded motion
pictures as a branch of the writing trade; it was natural
for him to foresee that the writer would now be su-
preme; he immediately sought some of the leading play-
wrights of the country to write his dialogue. The early
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■<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<~>
Goldwyn pictures were highly finished products com-
pared to most of the others.
The new medium baffled Goldwyn in one respect. It
made music an important factor in pictures. By instinct
and experience, Sam knew nearly everything else about
his art; he was able to put "the Goldwyn touch" on cos-
tumes, settings, character, dialogue and plot construc-
tion, but he did not know music. Sam's competitors were
no better off than he was. Most of the magnates and ex-
ecutives grappled resolutely with the new subject and
became music masters in no time. As Al Newman, a
Hollywood musical director, said, "Everybody here
knows his business, plus music." By his talent for picking
the right people, Sam has made successful musical shows,
but he has not been able to Goldwynize his music. He
cannot, as yet, give composers and song writers the same
sure guidance that he bestows on other employees.
Sam has developed a musical vocabulary of his own.
When he made his first musical picture, he heard one-
step time described as two-four time. He translated the
phrase as "two-by-four time." Sam told a composer once
that his music would not do.
"What's the matter with it?" asked the composer.
"There's not enough sarcasm in it," said Sam.
More recently Sam became enthusiastic about the song,
* 84 +
I — %
>>>>>>>> > # < <<<<<<< <
AFTER A PREVIEW
Mr. Goldwyn, surrounded by
members of his executive staff,
discusses the audience reaction
to a new Goldwyn production
after a "sneak preview" at a
Hollywood neighborhood the-
-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<->
Night and Day. "We must have something like Night
and Day for our new show," he kept insisting. One man
dined at the Goldwyn home after hearing Sam rave all
afternoon about Night and Day. After dinner, Night
and Day was played on the phonograph. "What tune is
that?" asked Sam.
Goldwyn wanted the Easter music exactly right for a
Greek Orthodox church service in the picture, We Live
Agai?i, based on Tolstoy's Resurrection. He was in ec-
stasies when the service was played for him privately in
the studio auditorium. Sam rushed around the lot, calling
important executives away from their work to hear it.
The music had been recorded on a film. Someone had
forgotten to rewind it. At the second demonstration, the
film began to move in the wrong direction, and the music
was being played backwards. The technician detected
the error and was about to correct it, when he heard
murmurs of "Great" . . . "Magnificent." The thing had
now gone too far; the technical man was afraid of get-
ting into trouble, and he let the music continue in the re-
verse. The entire Greek Orthodox Easter service was
played backwards, and at the end the auditorium rang
Sam is an autocrat. He cannot stand an equal or supe-
rior in authority. But as long as his final say cannot be
* 85 +
<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<->
questioned, he is a glutton for suggestions. He goes
around begging for criticism and advice. He is not in-
ventive or creative. He occasionally gets an idea of his
own, but even if he regards it as a stroke of genius he
can be persuaded to give it up. In one of his pictures,
Sam was having difficulty in finding a smooth transition
from a black-and-white sequence to a color sequence. A
solution was finally discovered; immediately afterward,
Sam thought of a different solution. He called his advis-
ers together, laid the new thought before them and asked
"We have spent weeks straightening the thing out,
and this would throw it back into confusion," said one.
Three others were equally hostile.
The fifth said: "I don't know if I understood you cor-
rectly, but if I did, it stinks."
"I can get a bad idea," said Sam.
Goldwyn hates to share power. He finds it equally
objectionable to share glory. For years his head man was
Arthur Hornblow, Jr. Sam had, and still has, a high re-
spect for him. They parted because Hornblow wanted
credit; he wanted a mention on the screen in pictures
made largely by him. Sam's reaction to this was like that
of Henry IV when he caught the Prince of Wales trying
on the crown; he was wounded to the heart. The fact
* 86 «-
<->■ THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<->"
that Hornblow was entitled to screen credit, by all the
canons of Hollywood, did not affect Sam. He was ready
to give more money, European vacations, or anything
except participation in the Goldwyn fame.
The nearest that Sam came to dividing glory was his
signing of Flo Ziegfeld in 1930 to help in making
Whoopee, Sam's first talkie. As a partner, Ziegfeld would
have been unbearable to Sam; as an employee he was
highly acceptable. Sam listened humbly to the Great
Ziegfeld; but when decisions were made, the Great Gold-
wyn made them. One of the triumphs of Sam's career
was the fact that Ziegfeld, in leaving Hollywood, car-
ried off a troupe of Goldwyn girls with him and pre-
sented them to Broadway as Ziegfeld girls. Ziegfeld had
been delayed in going to Hollywood to help make
Whoopee. Goldwyn picked his own chorus. "They're
terrible, impossible," said Ziegfeld. Everyone was greatly
impressed except Goldwyn. He looked on himself as a
judge of beauty, and doubted if Ziegfeld could top his
selections. Ziegfeld went back to New York and brought
back two dozen Ziegfeld girls. The rival choruses were
placed on display. "You win," said Ziegfeld rather mag-
nificently. His chorus was shipped back to New York.
After Whoopee had been completed, Ziegfeld signed up
most of the Goldwyn girls. Among them were Virginia
-> 87 +
-f> THE GREAT GOLDWYN <->-
Bruce, Barbara Weeks, Marian Marsh and Paulette God-
Will Rogers was one of Sam's first "discoveries." His
first picture was made for Sam in 1919; for several years
he appeared exclusively in Goldwyn comedies. In a sin-
gle picture, Stella Dallas, Goldwyn raised Belle Bennett
and Lois Moran from obscurity to stardom. The most
important of the Goldwyn finds was Vilma Banky. Sam
discovered Gary Cooper when Gary was a cowboy, but
he failed to appreciate Cooper after discovering him.
Ten years ago, Sam was paying Cooper fifty dollars a
week; he generously released Cooper when the young
actor got an offer of $200 a week; recently Goldwyn re-
hired Cooper for $3000 a week. He regards his failure to
develop Cooper in the first place as one of the major
blunders of his career. Robert Montgomery is another
Goldwyn discovery. Screen tests were made of Mont-
gomery when he was an actor on Broadway. "His neck
is too long," was the report. Sam saw the tests and said.
"His neck is not too long; his collars are too short." He
wired his office in New York to ask Arthur Richman,
playwright and connoisseur of clothes, to have neck-
correcting shirts made for Montgomery. New screen
tests were made; the actor looked great in his inspired
haberdashery. Through another man's mistake, Gold-
■> 88 +
-<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<">
wyn did not get the benefit of this discovery. On the
strength of the revised screen test, Montgomery was
signed by M-G-M.
Of all Goldwyn's discoveries, the costliest was Anna
Goldwyn brought Miss Sten to this country from Po-
land, after seeing her in a European film. He paid her a
large salary for a year while English teachers and dra-
matic coaches worked on her. He would not listen to
adverse judgments of her. She had, in his opinion, the
enigmatic countenance of the Sphinx. He went around
telling everyone, "She has the face of a Spink." In addi-
tion to the mysterious beauty which he saw in her, he
said she was a great actress, and also a singer and dancer.
He was disillusioned on the last two points. After hear-
ing her sing, a vocal expert reported, "She has a small but
highly disagreeable voice." Her limitations as a dancer
were such that, in rehearsing for Nana, Goldwyn him-
self hopped around on his left foot and tried to wrap his
right leg around his neck, in an effort to teach her to
cancan. She had a husband who was full of ideas which
greatly differed from Goldwyn's. Sam signed the hus-
band as an assistant director and sent him away to Cata-
lina Island to work on another picture; but still Miss Sten
was a problem. When Sam spent $411,000 on Nana,
■> 89 «-
<->• THE GREAT G O L D W Y N -<->
he scrapped everything that had been done and started
The morale of the studio broke under the terrific grind
of imprinting the Goldwyn touch on Miss Sten. Nervous
wrecks directed nervous wrecks. One day Miss Sten col-
lapsed. "Brandy," cried Goldwyn. Work was resumed,
but there were more collapses and more cries for restora-
tives. On one scene was a gorgeous bed with carved
swans and doves, the dream bed of the Nanas of all time.
Between scenes, Miss Sten rested on it.
Standing on a platform near her, a nervous wreck of a
photographer kicked a fuse box, got a shock, fell ten feet
and lay on the floor unconscious.
Someone ran to the studio medical office, and in a few
moments the doctor arrived, kit in hand. He overlooked
the injured man, darted to the bed, and doused the star's
nostrils with ammonia. She jumped out of bed and ran
around screaming. Someone ordered work ended in or-
der to save a score of mild neurotics from becoming
strait jacket cases. Goldwyn's unconquerable spirit failed
him, and he never tried to make that particular scene
Sam does the best he can to make a picture right.
After it is made, he usually accepts the verdict of the box
office. Even two adverse verdicts did not convince him
■> 90 -f
<->■ THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<->-
that he was wrong about Sten. He went on to make a
third failure with her.
Goldwyn's expensive campaign to make the Ameri-
can public like Anna Sten might not have occurred ex-
cept for his success ten years earlier with Vilma Banky.
He discovered Miss Banky when he saw her picture in a
photograph shop at Budapest. This was a feat, because,
when the photograph was sent to Hollywood, the Gold-
wyn executives could see no possibilities in her. She ar-
rived in Hollywood herself a few days after her photo-
Miss Banky was still bewildered on her arrival in Hol-
lywood. "I thought I was being tricked," she told an
interpreter. "I didn't believe the man was Goldwyn un-
til he gave me two thousand dollars." Sam had signed a
contract in Budapest giving her $250 a week for the first
year, with increases up to $750 a week for the fifth year.
After her enormous success in The Dark Angel, he
voluntarily tore up the old contract and drew up a new
one at $2000 a week, rising to $5000 a week on the
fourth year. When Miss Banky married Rod La Roque,
Sam took charge of the wedding and made it one of the
most dignified and elegant in Hollywood history, up to
the time when guests began to steal the floral decorations
and the roast turkeys.
> 91 <■
-<->" THE GREAT GOLDWYN •<->
Sam's experience with Miss Banky was unfortunate in
the end. Her accent was too broad for the talkies and
she would not undergo the toil necessary to master Eng-
lish. Sam paid her about a quarter of a million dollars
while she idled out the contract. By contrast Miss Banky
reminds Sam of Geraldine Farrar, whom he regards as
the woman of the ages; when Farrar found herself los-
ing popularity and becoming a burden to her company,
she tore up a contract which obligated Goldwyn to pay
Sam is a great detail man. Nothing is unimportant to
him. He is a marvel on fine points of costuming. His re-
habilitation of Montgomery, by changing his collar, is
the sort of thing he does regularly on the Goldwyn lot.
He has both art and box office in mind, but he would
not permit a cheap or tin-horn effect in a Goldwyn pic-
ture, even if it could be mathematically demonstrated
that the public would go wild about it. He will spend
tens of thousands of dollars on obscure details that could
not possibly cause the picture to sell one more ticket. In
making one of his first talking pictures, Sam spent $20,-
000 because of an unjust prejudice against a monosyl-
lable. In a scene that was written by Sidney Howard, a
waiter breaks the silence of a London club by dropping
> 92. +
«<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<->-
a spoon on the carpet; a startled clubman exclaims,
"What is the meaning of this infernal din?"
Sam was pleased with the scene when he saw it in the
projection room, but knitted his brows afterward and
said: "There was a word that sounded to me like 'din.' "
This was corroborated.
"What is that word 'din?' " asked Sam.
"It means 'noise.' "
"Then why didn't the writer say 'noise?' " demanded
Sam. After thinking it over for a while, he ordered the
entire scene remade. The settings had already been re-
moved. Contracts with some of the actors had expired.
"It makes no difference," said Sam. "We have to re-
shoot it. The word is archaic."
Actors were rehired. The scene was set again. In the
meantime, Sam had been telling everyone about the ar-
chaic word. Some great authority— said to be William
Randolph Hearst— told him that "din" was not archaic,
but was every bit as good as "noise." Sam then gave
orders not to reshoot it.
Part of Sam's greatness is in a twilight state that he
gets into while making a picture. During this period he
is highly suggestible. He is likely to accept a fantastic
suggestion, develop it still more fantastically, waste a
+ 93 +
-f-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<-»»
small fortune on it and then suddenly come to his senses,
exclaiming, "They're ruining me! Why do they do such
things to me?" During this twilight state, a kind word
will send Sam up into the clouds; a slur will chill his
heart. He has always been that way. Arthur Hopkins
quit Goldwyn eighteen years ago, saying, "I can't al-
ways be shooting up in the elevator or shooting down in
it with Sam." During the suggestible state, Sam adopts
suggestions so quickly that he seems to have originated
them. An executive of Sam's was once asked what kind
of man Goldwyn was. He replied, "Goldwyn is the
kind of man who, if he understands what you tell him,
thinks he thought of it himself." While he is in the fog,
however, Sam is always ransacking other men's minds
for "the Goldwyn touch." Patiently, diligently, he
reaches into and searches $3ooo-a-week brains and
$5ooo-a-week brains in the hope of finding something
worthy of Goldwyn. He is a Flaubert— with the excep-
tion that the French genius tirelessly explored his own
intellect for the perfect effect, while Goldwyn tirelessly
explores the intellects that he has under contract. The
results over a long period have justified Sam's methods.
The percentage of ham in Goldwyn pictures is less than
in those of any other producer. Not all of his pictures
> 94 «-
-«-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN -<->
are masterpieces, but he commits few crimes against his
Sam is a spellbinder by telephone. If television arrives
in time to let him transmit his hypnotic eye and his li-
brary of facial expressions, he will be greater than ever.
As it is, even with the telephone in a rudimentary state,
Sam can project a good deal of his personality over it.
Writers have been shanghaied from New York to Hol-
lywood by a few minutes of conversation with Gold-
wyn. They say "No" at first. Sam talks. Finally, they go
as if extradited. Sometimes they struggle against their
fate, but Sam rarely fails to get them in the long run.
Even with his business rivals and business enemies,
Sam is a siren over the telephone. Executives in other
companies wake up in a daze after a telephone conver-
sation with Sam and dimly remember, to their dismay,
that they have promised to lend him stars, directors or
technical men. Sam once telephoned to David Selznick
and asked to borrow George Cukor, one of the greatest
of the directors. "Absolutely not," said Selznick, but he
finally broke down and consented. Cukor, however, re-
fused to work for Goldwyn. Then Sam telephoned to
Selznick again; he wanted the reluctant Selznick to per-
suade the reluctant Cukor to direct a picture for Gold-
wyn. Cukor was firm. Sam finally had to confess defeat,
> 95 +
<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN *<->
and it was on this occasion that he said, "That's the way
with these directors; they're always biting the hand that
lays the golden egg."
Another one of Sam's infrequent repulses over the
telephone occurred in a conversation with Louis B.
Mayer, head of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio. Sam
wanted to borrow two of M-G-M's big stars, but he did
not open the conversation by saying so. He opened it by
saying that he had been grieving because he had not
seen Mayer for a long time, and that he was getting
worried for fear that Louis was overworking and in-
juring his health. Mayer admitted that he was overwork-
ing and not feeling any too well. Sam cross-examined
him as to the symptoms and then gave him a fatherly
scolding, illustrated with homely maxims: Life is short.
We live but once. Great men are rare; they owe a duty
to the world to look after their health. There is a limit
to human endurance. Nobody can drive himself at a ter-
rific pace forever. Sam prescribed home remedies, rest, a
change of doctors. He spent nearly fifteen minutes on
the lecture on hygiene before he started a transition to
the subject of borrowing two stars. Sam brought it in
like an afterthought, a little notion that had suddenly
Mayer roared with indignation. A battle of epithets
-<->- THE GREAT G O L D W Y N *f>
followed. Sam had hardly finished dishing out health
hints when he began to call down all sorts of afflictions
and disasters on Mayer.
Edgar Selwyn, one of Sam's oldest friends, is a pro-
ducer at the M-G-M studio. Their telephone conversa-
tion has a standard opening, as follows:
"Edgar, where have you been keeping yourself? Why
don't I ever see you? How've you — "
"What do you want, Sam?"
Sam protests a little, and then makes his request.
Sam loses his power when he has to write. He can't
make words coo and purr and explode on paper. The
glittering eye, the gestures, the ecstasy and despair, the
magical sense of timing, cannot be translated into black
and white. The Ancient Mariner had the Goldwyn ap-
proach; he would have lost his power if he had to send
the Wedding Guest a memorandum.
When Sam works on an important letter or state-
ment, he is likely to call in everyone on the lot to ghost
for him, but no genius can get Sam's furious feelings on
paper. Some of his publicity and advertising campaigns
have been considered masterpieces, but Sam is rarely
satisfied. He did praise one Goldwyn statement. Sam
imported a famous advertising writer from New York
who spent several days writing an eloquent proclama-
-> 97 «-
■<-> THE GREAT GOLDWYN •<->
tion of a new Goldwyn policy. Sam read it to his execu-
tives and said, "There. That sounds like me." He was
pleased once with an advertisement of his picture, We
Live Again, which read: "The directorial genius of
Mamoulian, the beauty of Sten and the producing gen-
ius of Goldwyn have been combined to make the world's
"That," said Sam, "is the kind of ad I like. Facts. No
There is one instance on record of Sam's failing orally,
and attempting to make his point by written words. He
had just finished Arroivsmith and was trying to tell
Helen Hayes how great it was. When his words and
gestures failed to impress her, he said, "Come to my of-
fice. I want you to read a letter I wrote about it."
Sam had a long illness last year, but has regained his
former vigorous health. During his sickness he planned
to take life easier in the future; during his convalescence
he outlined for himself the largest year's program that
he had ever undertaken. He resolved also that he would
be milder and gentler; that resolution stuck until he be-
gan to feel great.
Last year was Sam's twenty-third in the movie busi-
ness; his press department at that time spotted him two
years and celebrated the completion of his quarter cen-
-> 98 <-
-<->■ THE GREAT GOLDWYN ■<->
tury in the business. Next year is Sam's real silver jubi-
lee. It is something for everybody to get patriotic about.
The U. S. A. leads the world by a wider margin in pic-
tures than anything else, and one of the chief reasons is
the Great Goldwyn.
■> 99 +
1 1 1 1 1 i l i i 1 i i li i i i i